“The E-Book Goldrush Is Over.” “The Market Is Saturated.” “There Is A Tsunami of Crap on the Internet.”
There’s doom and gloom in the world of publishing lately. Articles and blog posts, forums and feeds all dissecting the state of the industry, and for the most part, it’s not pretty.
Many authors, Indie and Traditional, report declining sales. The average price of books has dropped as well, which means more units must be sold to make the same income as in prior years. Competition has increased as self-publishing has exploded, and established authors also republish their backlist as e-books online. Even the classics are being republished as e-books, now listed for .99 a pop.
Sure, the Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy stands to rake in a bajillion bucks, but that is a phenomenon unto itself. Unless you happen to have the next mega hit (and how would you know in advance? Are you psychic?), is it worth even trying to break into today’s crowded market?
How can a newbie hope to get noticed, as one tiny drop in an ocean of content?
Trends Are Changing Rapidly
There is about as much advice out there as there are authors trying to get noticed. But with everything (new technology, algorithms, buyer’s habits, the next hot social media site, etc.) changing so rapidly, by the time you read an article the advice may be outdated. The volume of books and authors trying to get noticed is so great that as soon as a trend begins, it becomes oversaturated to the point of being ridiculous. A recent case in point- how many box sets are being offered right now? Probably more than any of us could read in a lifetime! 16 books for .99? I understand the strategy behind it, but when the market is flooded with bundles the strategy may soon become ineffective.
Becoming a published author has always been a difficult road. For a short time, it seemed that self-publishing online was the answer to the prayers of unpublished authors everywhere.
And perhaps it still is. But even if you have written the next literary masterpiece or popular mega-hit, you still have to find ways to initially get your work discovered. And traditional publishing isn’t much easier. Often publishers expect the author to do most of the marketing, and the window for discoverability (time on the bookstore shelf) is very short.
There are only so many readers, and they can only read so much, as Guest Host Dario Ciriello deftly explored in this recent Fiction University Blog post.
What Seems To Be Working Right Now
From what I have read the debut authors who have a decent chance today, assuming their work is professional quality, and they have a media platform and marketing strategy in place, are those that are incredibly prolific, churning our several books a year. Target numbers vary, but at least 4-12 or more (including novellas and short stories). The consensus is that having a volume of titles available creates more of a following, as binge readers can feast on a constant supply of titles. Turning out a new title every 30-60 days is almost required to get noticed, gain traction and build a fan base. Kristin Lamb wrote an excellent post recently that hones in on why “binge watching” has become so popular, and it seems to happening with readers, as well.
That kind of schedule is simply out of reach for many of us. So what can you do if you are not a high-producing author?
Slowly building a following still works well for some authors, especially if they write for a niche market. So if you aren’t prolific or a fast producer, you can still have a successful career. Just be prepared for a marathon, not a sprint.
Should A New Writer Even Try?
So if you are new, and it is taking a while to get something ready to launch, can you even hope to have a chance by the time you are ready? Won’t the market be even more crowded by then?
It is entirely possible. But, just like the lottery, if you don’t play, your chance of winning is zero.
If you love writing, take your craft seriously, and spend the time and money to make your work the best it can be, why not take a chance?
You will never know what can happen, unless you try.
Anne R. Allen posted an article recently on this very subject with excellent suggestions on marketing for new writers in today’s turbulent world of publishing. If you get discouraged, as I sometimes do, look around to other authors who have been through the ups and downs, the cycles of the industry. There is always something you can do to move forward.
The upside is– there has never been a better time to be a writer. Even with all the changes, and the gloomy market out there, at least now new authors have options. Today it is easier than ever to get the help you need to succeed, too.
So, yes, despite the Chicken Littles who say the publishing sky is falling, I say give it a shot. As the saying goes, “The truth is sometimes stranger than fiction”. Make your own truth!